Election 2023: Chris Hipkins dials up the negative as internal polling shows Labour in difficult position

Chris Hipkins is sharpening his knives, prepping to get negative and run a campaign based on the fear of what a National-ACT coalition Government would bring. 

The race relations row got fiery in Parliament on Tuesday with Labour accusing ACT of relying on an "openly racist" campaign platform. 

Hipkins is putting on the bravest of faces as he faces down a potential beating.

"I acknowledge that we go into this election polling behind the Opposition," said Hipkins. 

Labour's polling has plummeted. Newshub understands its own internal polling has it on 30 percent while National's internals have Labour on 27.

So no more Mr Nice Chippy - he's ready to attack the Nats.

"We haven't been as negative or as critical about their approach. Maybe we should be a little more," Hipkins said. 

He is turning the electoral strategy dial from hope to fear. 

"We're going to be fighting back," he said.

Labour's Deborah Russell said some other parties "are being very dishonest about what their policies mean".

"The National and the ACT Party are refusing to say how they're going to pay for stuff, they are promising all sorts of cuts."

The right has cottoned on, with ACT's David Seymour questioning whether Hipkins is looking forward to "a campaign of running on fear of the Opposition".

Hipkins replied: "When it comes to campaigning on fear, I would again invite the Member to have a long hard look in the mirror and consider the way he is trying to demonise a large segment of New Zealand's society, a segment of New Zealand's society that have for too long been kicked around for political benefit." 

Hipkins is pouncing on David Seymour's so-called joke about the Pacific Peoples ministry - sparked by wasteful spending on a leaving party.

"In my fantasy, we'd send a guy called Guy Fawkes in there and it'd be all over."

Seymour said he's been misrepresented.

Asked to explain the joke and what's funny, Seymour replied: "What's funny? People are enormously frustrated with Government waste."

"Sometimes it's a bit of fun to say if only it would all just go away, maybe we could get Guy Fawkes to blow it up."

Other parties beg to differ, accusing the ACT leader of racism. 

"I think David Seymour is deliberately playing the race card in this election," said Hipkins.

Labour's Andrew Little said: "I think it's pretty clear that ACT sees its pathway to electoral success as being openly racist and were in relation to the Ministry for Pacific Peoples."

Seymour called Little's comment "disgraceful". 

"Andrew Little needs to give one example of something that I've said that's openly racist. Let's actually dial down the temperature and have some dialogue."

In the House, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi asked Hipkins whether he believed Seymour's comment about the Ministry for Pacific Peoples has "the potential to incite violence against Pacific people and the ministry itself?".

"I don't think that making statements, even if they were poorly intended in humour, about blowing people up is the sort of thing that responsible political leaders should do," Hipkins said.

Race relations are reaching boiling point and political attacks becoming personal.